New York, October 31, 2023—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation (SCMR) to revoke its six-month ban on the independent news website Mada Masr over its reporting on the Israel-Gaza war and to reverse its decision to refer the outlet for prosecution.
On Sunday, the SCMR announced that, after conducting a hearing with Mada Masr’s editor-in-chief, Lina Attalah, it would block the news website for six months for “practicing media activities without a license” and “publishing false news without checking its sources,” and refer the outlet to the prosecutor general’s office, according to a tweet by Mada Masr and reports by Ahram Online and The New Arab. Mada’s website was still accessible outside of Egypt.
“By banning Mada Masr’s website and referring the news outlet to the prosecutor general’s office, the Egyptian government has once again demonstrated its shameful dedication to targeting independent media and criminalizing press freedom in the country,” CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour, in Washington, D.C., said on Tuesday. “Authorities must cease harassing media outlets and journalists who are doing crucial work covering the Israel-Gaza war and its regional implications.”
On October 15, the SCMR announced an investigation into Mada Masr following multiple complaints that the outlet had published “inflammatory reports that undermine Egypt’s national security,” according to Ahram Online and Egypt Today.
The SCMR referred to an October 11 report by Mada Masr, which speculated that Egypt was preparing to accept Palestinian refugees fleeing Israeli’s attack on Gaza, based on interviews with five anonymous high-ranking Egyptian political and diplomatic sources.
On October 15, Mada Masr issued a statement on its Facebook page, acknowledging that “a number of our readers sent us feedback about a report we published” and that it had decided to change the headline, as the original “leaves room for interpretations that diverge from its content.”
The Egyptian government has a history of harassing independent media outlets. Three Mada Masr journalists are facing trial for misusing social media and offending members of parliament. The court has not ruled yet.
CPJ emailed the SCMR for comment but did not receive any response.